Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Potential RFA targets for the Oilers

Here are some players that it might make sense for EDM to go after with RFA offer sheets, assuming the compensation reported by Tom Benjamin is indeed accurate (which I have no reason to doubt). Deciding which players to go after will likely depend upon which teams have cap room, which don't, which are against their self imposed budgets, and how much better the player you would sign to an offer sheet is than whatever UFA you can sign in his place.

All of the following are players that I believe Edmonton could use, but it's not going to be easy to get any of them unless they play on a team that will be pressed up against the cap and forced to make a difficult decision on which players to trade if they match, or whether they should simply let the player go. Additionally, any team that is close to their self imposed budget and not willing to spend above could be at risk to an offer sheet. One team in particular worth considering will be Ottawa with Spezza, Hossa, Havlat and potentially Vermette as notable RFA's. It wouldn't be surprising to see some team be able to pluck one of these players away from the Senators.

Jason Spezza - He is on the upswing, he's likely to be better than anything EDM can get on the UFA market unless for some reason they can sign Demitra or Forsberg. In either case, having Spezza as well wouldn't hurt either, if there's budget room. OTT appears to be close to the cap, that should help EDM in trying to sign Spezza away. Perhaps something like a 4 year deal averaging 4.99 mil - cost in compensation 2-1sts, 1-2nd, and 1-3rd.

In particular I think teams might look to target players in the 1.99-2.99 mil range, because teams close to the cap may not be able to match with these guys and the compensation isn't enough to stop a team from poaching these players with offer sheets. Any successful player who has finished his entry level contract would seem to make sense for GM's to contemplate signing, in particular those who play for teams close to the cap. One example might be a guy like Havlat, but it's hard to know how far OTT would be willing to go to keep him? At 1.99 mil, for sure they match. 2.99 mil? Yeah, if they have cap room? 3.99? I don't know if they have that kind of cap room.

Another example could be Mark Bell, who would seem to suit the Oilers well. Unfortunately, I don't think CHI would let him go, but it couldn't hurt to throw an offer sheet at him for 1.99 mil, compensation cost is merely a 2nd rounder. It would probably take more like 2.99 mil, with comp of a 1st + a 3rd to even get CHI to consider not matching. Is he worth it, even at that price? Would CHI still match?

Ideally one would like to "attack" tems within the division, because you play them so often and are competing directly with them for the division crown. For the Oilers that means looking to sign players from CAL, COL, VAN or MIN in particular.

Minnesota will be a particularly invulnerable team as they have tons of cap room and enough revenue to match any offer EDM might make. Nonetheless, maybe it wouldn't hurt to force them to match an offer to PM Bouchard, instead of allowing them to spend the money they'd save from a cheaper Bouchard on UFA's that EDM might be competing for with the Wild. It is worth noting that MIN, or any team, might "retaliate" and try to sign the Oilers players, and perhaps that's a reason not to try to sign RFA's. On the other hand, you can respect the previous convention of not signing offer sheets and STILL have someone else attack yours, so maybe it's prudent to just make whatever decisions make sense for you and worry about the retribution when it comes, and not before?

CAL might be easier to steal from as they reportedly won't stray very far from their budget, whatever it is. Perhaps Langkow is a decent target? Kobasew? Iginla?

VAN could be near the cap. What about guys like D.Sedin, H.Sedin?

COL will be near the cap. The Oilers want to add a puckmover. JM Liles to a 1.99 mil offer sheet? Would COL match that? Would they have the necessary cap room? What about Tanguay - can you make offer he would accept? Hejduk might be too close to UFA age to convince him to sign an offer sheet, but Tanguay might be a chance to hurt the Avalanche while improving the Oilers.

Some other possibilities, league wide:

Datsyuk and Zetterburg in Detroit - have they opened enough cap room to be able to match your offer sheets?

Luongo, VanRyn, and Weiss in FLA - they would seem to be longshots, as one might expect FLA to match. Maybe not with Weiss, depending on cost and projection?

Legwand, Hartnell, and Hamhuis in NSH- Edmonton could definitely use Legwand, what kind of offer might he take for NSH to let him go?

Mara in PHX - puckmoving defenceman, how much cap room does PHX have available? Would a 1.9 mil offer sheet do the trick with Mara? What about 2.9 mil? Is he even worth that, financially?

Tons of intriguing possibilities, all of which also make a guy ask "Which Oilers could be signed away?"


And what about Hemsky? Edmonton probably had planned on getting him signed for 1.0 mil, or thereabouts. Under these RFA rules, it wouldn't be that hard to believe Hemsky's agent can find a team willing to bid 1.99 mil in an attempt to win Hemsky's services, at a compensation cost of a 2nd rounder. Even though EDM would match it would still take 1 mil out of their UFA spending money. Would they match at 2.99 mil, or take the 1st and 3rd, thinking that 2.99 mil can be better spent on UFA's? How about at 3.99 mil, or take the 1st and 2nd and 3rd?

I had predicted Edmonton could sign their remaining RFA's for ~12 mil before the news of these RFA compensation levels, leaving them something like 8 mil to spend on UFA's (assuming a 33 mil budget). Maybe it will cost them more like 16 mil if teams start to throw a couple RFA offer sheets at EDM RFA's, cutting EDM's UFA budget in half.

I can't wait for August 1st to arrive, just to see how this new CBA initially pans out...

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